Ian Brodie, with Reuters – A financial transaction under investigation in France involving LVMH owner Bernard Arnault and a transaction in the upmarket Alpine resort of Courchevel was carried out in full respect of the law, his lawyer said on Saturday.

The Paris public prosecutor’s office had confirmed on Friday that it is investigating financial transactions involving Arnault – the world’s second-richest man – and Russian businessman Nikolai Sarkisov.

Le Monde, citing the French finance ministry’s anti-money laundering unit Tracfin, reported on Thursday that Sarkisov had acquired real estate in Courchevel via a complex transaction in which Arnault, through one of his companies, had provided a loan.

“The operation allowing the extension of the Cheval Blanc hotel in Courcheval was perfectly known about and was carried out in full respect of the law,” lawyer Jacqueline Laffont said in a statement to Reuters.

“Media coverage of these leaks and the insinuations that have followed has made it necessary to respond. These allegations are as absurd as they are baseless.”

The prosecutors office said on Friday that a preliminary investigation had been opened in 2022 and said it would not make further comment on an ongoing investigation.

In France, a prelimary investigation does not necessarily imply wrongdoing by those concerned, for whom the presumption of innocence applies.

An unidentified Tracfin official had told Le Monde that the transactions involving Arnault and Sarkisov, who both acted through a complex web of legal entities, could have been aimed at concealing the origins of the funds used.

LVMH heavily invested in Monaco

In July this year Arnault’s LVMH took a five-percent stake in Sociéte des Bains de Mer, Monaco’s flagship hotel, casino and restaurant operator, in which the state owns more than 60 percent.

The luxury goods group will be a major tenant in the boutiques due to open shortly in the revamped Cafe de Paris.

There are also unconfirmed reports that LVMH is interested in acquiring the Hotel Metropole in Monaco, one of the very few hotels not in the hands of SBM.

FILE PHOTO: Bernard Arnault, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Paris, France, July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol